Category Archives: Fiction Musings

Weekly HotS update + strong female characters

Happy Friday everyone!

I wanted to swing by to provide the weekly Heart of the Sand update and make some general comments about strong female characters in western story-telling.

I have completed readable, first draft copies for the first four chapters of Heart of the Sand (The Cleaver Prince, The Last Retreat, At the Mercy of Mother God, and Royal Demands). I will continue to work through the weekend and next week. If all goes well, another four chapters will be completed by the week of Christmas. January 5th, 2016 is a little ways away, but not that far! If work continues to proceed as planned, I should have half of the book done when I start publishing, with the narrative completed sometime in February. I very much look forward to all the feedback when we reach January.

In more general, narrative terms I wanted to touch on the topic of strong female characters. As most of you know, I do not write any weak characters, regardless of gender (strong or weak is relative in my works). I often wonder why authors, filmmakers, and story tellers are so dismissive of those kinds of characters. As a consumer — not a necessarily as a writer — I am unequivocally bored when a female character surfaces who is summed up in any of the following ways: trophy, eye candy, inconsequential, push-over, or damsel in distress. I’m sure you can come up with a lot of other descriptors. To me those characters are lifeless, without depth, and to put it more bluntly, insulting to consumer intelligence.

So why not go with strong female characters?

At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I adore all three of my primary female characters. Aerona, Ashleigh, and Lutessa have strength of will, fortitude, courage, bravery, and unrelenting determination in one form or another. They all have pain that they deal with in different ways, chauvinistic males who try to keep them down (to which they fight back and overcome), and incredible physical and emotional obstacles that when they conquer it, they grow and evolve — just like their male counterparts.

Would I trade them for lifeless, damsels in distress? Puppets that male characters pull the strings of? Faceless entities that do lip service to feminists? No, I would not. Ever.

Let’s not be afraid of strong female characters. Embrace them. Stories are much better off with them, than without.

 

Smaller cast of characters

Hi everyone!

Today I wanted to talk about something that is half fiction musing and story updates. What I’m talking about is a cast of characters.

I will not name other works of fiction — I think you can identify them pretty easily from the description — but one source of frustration I have is when I read a book and it has a ton of characters. Now, it is not because I feel the characters are under-developed or they are just there for plot advancement. No, most of the time they are very well developed and engaging. It’s just that sometimes there’s simply too many of them. You attach yourself to characters A, B, C, and D, but you have to wade through characters E,F,G,H to get to them. I do not want to imply the latter are bad or boring characters, but you run into the problem of: well I prefer these, not those, and oh God, look at what I have to do to get to what I like.

This is why I have always favoured a smaller cast. In Heart of the Sand I have 10 different character perspectives. Four of those perspectives have only one chapter each, and another three have two chapters each. I think, this allows for the audience to grow more attached to a smaller set of characters, and they will see them on a much more regular basis. Again, to use my work as an example, this means that three characters (Aerona, Daniel, and Lutessa) account for 14 out of 24 chapters. Oh, and if Sea of Storms did not make it obvious, those are my “main” characters going forward, without question.

I had recently just finished a young adult dystopian series (yes, I still like young adult fiction). It did a lot of things really well, but what I think stood out for me, is that it felt like I really knew the small group of characters. Somehow, I felt more attached, more compelled to their trials and tribulations, their hardships and their struggles. If the cast was increased significantly, I don’t know if I’d feel the same.

Well, I hope more works follow these lines. I love my small casts, after all.

Character death in fiction

In the 14 years that I considered myself as a “dedicated reader” I have never quite understood reader and author avoidance to character death. I understand that readers (I’m as guilty of this as anyone) become overly attached to characters. To see them suddenly killed off leaves us screaming at the pages and the author. But is this really a bad thing? Do we always want to see favourite characters linger in terrible circumstances, or worse, a drawn out half-baked plot? Gratuitous killing is undesirable, of course, but I oft prefer to see a character die when they have finished their plot purpose, than simply see them move on purposeless because readers simply want to see them more.

It is this philosophy that guided me through Darkness Rising. Most of my “main” characters survived the narrative, but a plethora of side and supporting characters met their end. Plot purpose is the reason. So when some of you saw a more pacified writer in Sea of Storms, I hope you did not see it as a change in philosophy. I still very much believe when major characters have no more interesting stories to tell, they should meet some sort of end as befits their character.

Most of my notes for Heart of the Sand are quite bloody. It should be fun.